Friday, December 30, 2016

Year nearly over

Disclaimer: this post was written on December 10, so if anything else big has happened, it may not be included here

But wow, what a year it was. For a while there was a trend on twitter to post two pictures, usually of a young character and an old one (My favorite being "Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars vs. Luke Skywalker as shown at the end of The Force Awakens) and have the caption of "Me at the beginning of 2016 vs. me at the end of 2016"

But yeah, that kind of sums it up. A lot of us got a lot older over this year.

We lost a lot of people. The one freshest in mind to me (as I am writing this on the 10th) is John Glenn. (He spoke at the graduation the year before I graduated from prep school - the 1986 graduation. I went, partly to hear him, partly because a number of my friends were graduating).

But we also lost Alan Rickman and David Bowie and Prince and Arnold Palmer and Florence Henderson and Ron Glass and Gene Wilder and Bob Elliott and Natalie Cole and George Kennedy and Merle Haggard and Muhammad Ali and Toots Theilemans and a lot of others I've not named.

Fidel Castro died, though as I said at the time, I doubt much will change for ordinary Cubans.

For goodness sake, we lost Abe Vigoda, whose survival had been a running Internet joke (there was an "Is Abe Vigoda dead" plug-in for Firefox)

In my own world, the biggest shocking thing was losing a student suddenly over Thanksgiving break, but I also lost a cousin, and my mom's best friend lost her brother.

Too many deaths. As I said at one point - I think after Glenn's death - "It seems like 2016 is just spiking the football now"

There were a lot of bad in-the-world things: the attack in Brussels, the attack in Nice, the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, there was the knife attack at Ohio State....and I am sure there are many more I am forgetting. There were lots of changes in the world - the Brexit vote, the election a .... very different, to say the least....candidate to President in the US. 

And there were other difficult things. The biggest thing in my own personal life were the financial difficulties on campus - budget shortfall that was traceable to a fall in oil and gas prices and also a perhaps ill-timed state income tax cut. As a result, we weathered very large cuts. The direct impact on faculty were several: people who were eligible (within 2-3 years) of retirement were offered early retirement. Many administrators took it, which then led to consolidation or closure of offices, and some offices took over new tasks. A few people were let go - one person in my department who had never taken a tenure-line position was. Tenured faculty were asked to take furlough days which I will openly admit were upsetting to me - as a salaried person, I am used to working until the work is done, but then I was told, "No, you can't work on your furlough days" and it was just upsetting to my inner rule-follower. (The work still got done. No way I was going to slack on anything, not during hard budget times). I got paid at adjunct rate for summer classes, which was difficult and it was upsetting that I had already technically agreed to teach and my classes were on the books when the word came down that that was how it was happening.

(I am not teaching next summer - in fact, will not teach summers again until I can be paid full freight. Because I think you should never volunteer to do that which you do not want to be forced to do at some point).

I had some health issues. This mostly involved my GI tract; I developed something similar to IBS for a while. I think this was initially brought on by a virus I had but made worse by stress....back in January, I was filling the pulpit for the first time, AND THEN there was that horrible Friday evening when my brother called and asked if I'd heard from our parents, and a chain of calling around to agencies in Illinois later found out my dad had been taken to the ER in an ambulance, and it was about 15 more minutes  (the worst 15 minutes of my life) before I found out that he was mostly OK and my mom was OK. And then right on the heels of that a friend of mine from church was taken to the ER with an abdominal issue she was not expected to survive (She did, though it has changed her life a lot). As I said earlier - the whole ER thing with my dad raised a very visible specter for me of "some day you will have to travel up there for funerals" and that really affected me. I mean, on an intellectual level I knew it - that I would eventually outlive my parents - but the whole ER thing brought it home to me on an emotional level that literally hit me in the gut.

And then, the following week, I wound up in the ER myself, after worrying myself on a Friday into thinking maybe it wasn't JUST an upset stomach, that it was my gall bladder or something worse. (It wasn't, but it was several months before my digestion got back to normal and I still have to be careful).

The local quilt shop closed. A local gift shop closed. Nothing has replaced those. My doctor left the practice she was a part of and one thing I have to do when I get back is either found out where she went, or if she left the area/left medicine, find a new doctor. (I really hope it's not that).

Some good things did happen. I applied for and got a small grant for some research. I gave a presentation at my university's symposium week, I gave a talk for one of the campus clubs. I made a poster and gave it at the North American Prairie Conference, and got to see the remaining members of my graduate committee while I was up there. I had a paper come out and I found out one on which I am a co-author will be published in the coming year. A textbook publisher hired me for some work that made up for the money missed during my summer teaching.

But on balance, I'm not sad to see 2016 go, and I am hoping 2017 is better, somehow.

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